Much has been written over the last forty years about Annibale Bugnini and his impact upon the Roman Rite. The architect of the Novus Ordo Mass, Father Bugnini was Secretary of the Consilium, the body established by Pope Paul VI in 1964 and charged with implementing Sacrosanctum Concilium. Even before Vatican 2, however, Fr. Bugnini was instrumental in the 1955 reforms of Holy Week promulgated during the papacy of Pius XII. These “reforms” were the proverbial foot in the door for the full liturgical revolution which occurred in the wake of the Council.
Fast forward to 2007. Following four decades of liturgical devastation, Pope Benedict XVI released his motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, which granted greater availability of the traditional Mass of the Roman Rite to the faithful and to those priests who wished to offer it. As Summorum introduced to the Church the largely juridical terms, Ordinary Form (for the New Mass) and Extraordinary Form (for the Old Mass), it is quite clear that Benedict’s actions were more those of a shepherd looking to correct rather than a revolutionary looking to change. It was also his attempt to reconcile with traditional priests and laity who had received either neglect or outright abuse from their local ordinary for decades.
Enter the Holy Ghost and the sensus fidelium. Unlike the dictatorially imposed top-down ‘reforms’ of post-Conciliar progressives, the implementation of which made the Roman Rite nearly unrecognizable from its very own tradition, the reemergence of the Old Rite has been a lay driven movement, aided often by a handful of maligned priests and (even fewer) bishops. The Mass of the Ages has truly been the Mass that wouldn’t die, though the revolutionaries have spent decades mercilessly trying to kill it.
In the last ten years an increasing number of Catholics have been slowly, methodically, exorcising Bugnini from their experience of the Roman Rite, regardless of whether or not they even know who he was. Celebrating the venerable Mass using the liturgical books of 1962, these faithful Catholics have experienced the Mass, the Holy Sacrifice of Calvary, as their forefathers did. Those who are able to attend weekly Sunday Mass in the Extraordinary Form participate in the liturgy as Catholics have for centuries, not merely decades. The rushed and ecumenically motivated work of Bugnini and the Consilium has been replaced for them with the organically developed Mass of the Saints.
Now we come to Holy Week 2018, and once again we see the work of the Holy Ghost. As has been widely reported, the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei has granted permission to several traditional priestly societies to offer Holy Week liturgies just as they existed before the Bugnini & Pius XII reforms of 1955. In other words, between weekly Masses offered all this year using the liturgical books of 1962, and celebrating Holy Week using pre-1955 books, there are Catholic parishes & communities who will have a Bugnini-free 2018.
The outstanding Catholic writer Martin Mosebach recently noted:
The Roman Rite will be won back in hundreds of small chapels, in improvised circumstances throughout the whole world, celebrated by young priests with congregations that have many small children, or it will not be won back at all.
What we are seeing with this year’s Holy Week liturgies is Mosebach’s prophetic statement realized. We are seeing the exorcising of Bugnini from the Rite which has been so devastated in the wake of the Council and his work with the Consilium. No one need worry about the limited scope of this initial implementation. The restoration of authenticity continues on a scale & scope outside of our control. All we need do is respond with humility & gratitude.